Redefining customer engagement during the global pandemic

The world is still reeling from the impact of COVID-19. And for contact centres globally, customer engagement has never been more important.

For CCI South Africa, our immediate concern when the pandemic hit was to ensure our people’s safety. Our Durban Call Centre is now running with all COVID-19  precautions in place. These include stringent social distancing, all necessary hygiene measures, visors, masks and where required, changes to working schedules. But the other side of our pandemic preparation is, of course, maintaining a high-quality customer experience.

Customer engagement means empathising with people

Customer engagement during the pandemic leans more heavily on providing an empathetic customer experience. This is always part of our role as a contact centre, but everything from the timing of customer engagement to its content matters more than ever.

Making time to understand the challenges faced by our partners and their customers means we can ensure we actively reach out with solutions. Proactive and reactive customer engagement must coexist, with contact centres becoming a vital lifeline for services and assistance during this long-running global crisis.

People during times of crisis don’t want to have the added pressure of a difficult customer journey when they need answers from a service or brand. They need to know that your contact centre truly understands what they need, and that everyone understands what’s being done to help them.

This means more internal training and communication, particularly as lockdowns ease and measures change at regular intervals. It means ensuring that agents are fully equipped and understand exactly how they can help people.

Communicating with members of the public about COVID-19

And it also means going above and beyond. I’m truly proud of the team at CCI South Africa. The way they have handled every challenge that has faced them since the start of COVID-19 is testament to their work ethic and commitment. Not only have our agents continued to serve our partners and customers to the best of their ability throughout the crisis, but they have also performed vital services for the wider community.

When we were approached by the Durban Chamber of Commerce for urgent assistance, we didn’t hesitate to step up. An internal team was quickly set up to manage thousands of calls to vulnerable members of the public throughout the country.

It’s an inescapable and fact that South Africa still ranks highly on the global table for COVID-19 cases. By the middle of August 2020, South Africa has in excess of 550,000 cases and a cumulative total of just over 10,008 deaths.

Our role in providing a track and trace system to inform people that they have the virus is key to contributing to the slowing of the virus, contacting individuals by phone to update them of their latest Covid 19 situation and understanding who they’ve been in contact with.

The sooner people know that they are infected with COVID-19, the sooner they can self-isolate or get treatment and reduce the infection rate. Our dedicated team were formed within 24 hours of the request for help, and we ran the entire operation free of charge. Following these customer contacts we were also able to gather a further 5,000 records of people who were in contact with infected people.

Contact centres are uniquely placed to help across the board

We’re always dedicated to helping businesses improve customer engagement. And this service took our core values an extra step. We have the resources and ability to offer this kind of assistance at times of crisis, and I’m exceptionally proud of all the agents and managers involved.

The CEO of the Durban Chamber of Commerce, Palesa Phili, says: “I contacted CCI as I knew they had the staff and resources to set up quickly. We needed a swift and comprehensive outreach to people who have tested positive for the coronavirus. I was really impressed, that from my first call, to them starting contact with members of the public was under 24 hours.”

Contact centres are uniquely placed to provide these types of services. The excellent framework, technology and training that have always been at the core of our services meant that the Durban contact centre could begin contact tracing within one day. The pandemic is still very much here, of course, and as it plays out there may be further opportunities to help in this way. In the meantime, we’re proud of our contribution to managing the spread of COVID-19.